Why Hibs' quiet transfer window shouldn't concern fans - Jack Ross' team will be built in the summer

Jack Ross has quietly improved Hibs but fans won't see the best until next season

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 12:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 12:27 pm

This month Hibs have flown under the radar as city and league rivals make - or at least attempt to - noises in the transfer window.

Supporters of the Easter Road side have witnessed Hearts gain plenty of headlines and column inches. It is the consequence of the Tynecastle side making substantial moves, which have upset current and former employees, as manager Daniel Stendel looks to reshape his squad which is firmly rooted to the bottom of the league.

You contrast that with Hibs, who are in a far more stable position on and off the pitch.

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Jack Ross will have been working to put his stamp on his Hibs side over the winter break. Picture: SNS

The squad at Jack Ross' disposal and their sixth-place standing in the Ladbrokes Premiership, 12 points above the drop zone, has the side looking upwards to third-place Motherwell who themselves are 12 points ahead of Hibs.

The team have had their head down, working to towards the start of the second half of the season beginning with an enticing Scottish Cup tie on Sunday at Championship leaders Dundee United, with a winter training camp in Spain the ideal setting for preparations.

It arrived at the perfect time for Ross to finally get a sustained period with the team on the training ground to further implement his ideas.

Since taking over from Paul Heckingbottom midway through November, the news boss saw his side play eight games in 36 games. Arriving at a busy period of the season can be difficult for a new manager. Playing a game every three or four days means there is a lot of focus on recovery and can make in-depth training ground work a little bit more difficult.

Ross has improved matters after Paul Heckingbottom's sacking. Picture: SNS

Ross also came in after the team had dismantled St Johnstone 4-1 under interim boss Eddie May. He utilised a 4-4-2 diamond which got he best from key individuals as Hibs put in one of their best performances of the season.

It is a system the new manager has continued to use, even with the return of wing-king Martin Boyle from injury.

As St Mirren boss he said: "I think you have to be careful if you move clubs or have a big turnover in your playing squad, you don't necessarily try and implement the same system with players that doesn't suit."

While Ross is a manager who wants his side to play on the front foot, he's also pragmatic and talked about having to adapt. It is clear he was aware on coming into the Hibs role that his ability to reshape the squad to his likening was going to be difficult in the short-term.

Hibs have been stung in the past when it comes to a busy January. Picture: SNS

Earlier this month he said: “It’s more about getting the best from what I have got at the moment. That’s how I have approached the month to be fair, I haven’t thought about making wholesale changes because I don’t think we’re in a position to do that.”

As their city rivals have found, and Hibs know full well January is a notoriously difficult month to make considerable changes. The winter window of 2012 likely still sends a shiver down the spine of Hibs fans all over. Tom Soares, Matt Doherty, Pa Kujabi, George Francomb to name but a few. Too much activity can have a detrimental effect.

It means that, while not writing the season off, there is a sense of a transition at Easter Road for the rest of the term, and patience is required with Ross.

The former Sunderland boss has contract until 2023. It was a long-term appointment and he is not required or expected to having the team sprint from the off.

The real Jack Ross Hibs won't be seen until next season. Picture: SNS

It has been seen in results and performances. The team put in confident displays in winning at Tynecastle and putting Aberdeen in their place at Easter Road. But reality checks were handed out by Livingston and Ross County, while they failed to lay a glove on Rangers.

This is not Ross' squad. He is working with Heckingbottom's squad and doing it better than the Englishman, whose transfer business can rightly be called into question. Chris Maxwell, Josh Vela, Adam Jackson, Tom James and Glenn Middleton have either struggled or flopped. Even Joe Newell and Christian Doidge had their moments of doubt.

If you analyse Ross' previous teams when working in Scotland, they have played 4-2-3-1 with a dynamic, attacking, creative trio, all capable of scoring, playing behind a lone striker.

There is every reason to think that come the summer transfer window, Ross will look to tweak the squad to resemble such a philosophy.

He does run into difficulty with only two first-team players out of contract at the end of the campaign - Vykintas Slivka and Steven Whittaker - which allows for little room for movement without the slightly harder task of finding clubs for players who don't feature in his plans long-term. On top of that, Ryan Porteous and Florian Kamberi are the only two players who would likely fetch a handsome fee which could be reinvested.

That being said, it is far easier to do a remodelling job when big games aren't around the corner and it is not condensed into a month.

As with any manager replacing someone who has just been sacked, it is a far from ideal position, but the signs are good. Hibs have went from picking up 0.82 points per game to 1.4 and climbed the table, looking upwards rather than what's behind.

A quiet January may be frustrating fans but they should be comforted by the fact that the team are progressing under the new boss, and it won't be until next season when we see the real Jack Ross' Hibs.